Illawarra legal Centre InC AnnuAl RepoRt



Illawarra legal Centre InC AnnuAl RepoRt
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc
Annual Report
2009 - 2010
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
© Illawarra Legal Centre Inc 2010
7 Greene Street (PO Box 139)
Warrawong NSW 2502
Telephone 02 4276 1939
Facsimilie 02 4276 1978
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009-2010
© Illawarra Legal Centre Inc 2010
7 Greene Street (PO Box 139)
Warrawong NSW 2502
Telephone 02 4276 1939
Facsimilie 02 4276 1978
cover image: Photographer Simon Howard, cover and staff photographs.
Centre Workers
General Law Project
Child Support Project
Community Legal Education and Community Development
Tenants Service 16
Financial Counselling and Credit & Debt Legal Services 20
Welfare Rights Service 21
Children’s Court Assistance Scheme
Aboriginal Legal Access Program 26
ILC at a Glance 28
Financial Report 29
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Year of change
In 2010 the Illawarra Legal Centre celebrates 25 years of
service provision to the Illawarra.1 Despite our advancing years
(or because of them), it is interesting to note that “change” and
“growth” are the two words I would use to describe this year.
In mid 2009, the Centre received three one-off grants from the
Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. This funding
was used to support a number of projects ranging from a
Child Support research project, developing and distributing
publications and wallet cards as part of the Fines Project, to
providing additional solicitor hours to support the Generalist’s
program, particularly in the area of employment law. A large
component of the funding however was used to pilot an
outreach on the Far South Coast focusing on Welfare Rights
and Tenancy. Whilst most of our funding is for the provision
of services in the Illawarra, our Welfare Rights and Tenancy
programs also cover the South Coast.
As part of the Centre’s strategic planning, statistical modelling
indicated that in the Far South Coast there were areas of
high unmet legal need particularly in relation to social security
and tenancy law. Outreach offices were opened in Bega and
Batemans Bay in February of this year. The project has been
strongly supported by Murra Mia, the Southern NSW Aboriginal
Tenants Advice & Advocacy Service through the provision of
office space in Batemans Bay. The South Coast Cooperative
Legal Service Delivery Program has also been supportive as
they too are very aware of the need for more services in these
areas. Staff based in this area are now able to attend the Bega
and Batemans Bay Consumer, Traders and Tenants Tribunal
on a regular basis and have partnered with Shoalcoast Legal
Centre to provide community legal education to the Wallaga
Lakes community. Looking at the project’s statistics on a
monthly basis, the number of clients accessing these services is
Another new service launched in March of this year is the
community legal education program based at the Wollongong
Family Relationship Centre (WFRC). Funded by the
Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department, the Centre
has engaged a Family Law Solicitor and project worker to
develop teaching and support materials aimed at people with
children working through the separation or divorce process. The
WFRC runs a weekly workshop called Child in Focus to raise
awareness of the centrality of children in family disputes, legally
and psychologically, and to promote pathways for achieving
child-sensitive outcomes within the separation or divorce
process. The Family Law Solicitor is responsible for presenting
the legal component of the program. The response has been
very positive. WFRC staff have observed that understanding
1 The actual celebrations will not be held until the second half of 2010.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
the legal aspects has ensured greater attention is being paid
to the rest of the program but more importantly, people are
becoming more open to resolving potential issues outside the
adversarial process of the courts and showing greater interest
in Family Dispute Resolution.
New programs have been part of our story this year but staff
changes have also played their part.
Locums were employed to cover a range of leaves including
parenting and long service leave. It was also necessary
to engage new staff to cover the FRC and South Coast
programs. Possibly, the most significant change however
was the retirement of two key figures within the Centre, our
Financial Manager and our Receptionist.
Our Financial Manager, Wendy Brown arrived in the Centre
well over twenty years ago. She initially became involved in
the Centre’s work through a campaign around the Widow’s
pension. To her own amazement she found herself talking on
behalf of a delegation lobbying politicians in Canberra. Initially
starting as a volunteer she stayed on as an employee for 22
years. During that time she watched the service take on and
develop a range of programs, some reaching fulfilment and no
longer needed, some killed off by loss of funding, whilst others
have become an established part of the Centre’s services.
She was also actively involved in the establishment of the
Shoalcoast Community Legal Centre.
Wendy also played a significant role within the NSW
Community Legal Centre sector. She took a leading role in the
Administrators group and was Treasurer for several years for
the Combined Community Legal Centres Group NSW (now
know as Community Legal Centres New South Wales).
Her main role and most lasting contribution to the Centre
however was her management of our finances. She has left
the Centre in a very strong position financially despite all the
complexities involved in working with five or six funding bodies
in any one year, each with different requirements. As part of
this work she also developed an excellent working relationship
with each fund manager, establishing a positive reputation for
the Centre in relation to our financial management – another
wonderful legacy of her work.
Kay Elsner, whilst not as long standing an employee as
Wendy, retired from the Centre after thirteen years service.
Kay came to the Centre as our Receptionist joining the
Administration Team. Like Wendy she too saw many changes
but for her technology created the greatest impact, particularly
our computer and telephone systems, changes she readily
Planning Day 2010
Wendy Brown at her fairwell dinner
adapted to. Kay was unflappable and brought to the Centre
many skills but as I prepare the Annual Report I am reminded
of her extraordinary ability to proof read documents, finding
all the small typos and errors everyone else had overlooked.
For this and many other things, both she and Wendy will be
One of the most interesting aspects of a large turnover in
staff is that it is inevitable that it will impact on the culture of
an organisation. Ours is no exception and we are currently
working with that process and foresee an exciting future.
In many respects this has an eventful year. Losing valued
colleagues whilst sad, can also open the door for new
understandings and experiences and is clearly a necessary
part of life in any organisation. Reaching out and supporting
new clients with the knowledge that this contact has the
potential of positively impacting on their lives clearly gives our
work meaning. After 25 years however it is wonderful to see
that we are still a dynamic organisation continuing to grow.
Amanda Smithers
During the year, one of the changes that caused the Centre
considerable concern was the uncertainty around the funding
for the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP). The funding
received for the period 2009/2010 was very limiting and the
program’s future looked bleak. However we have received the
news that ALAP will be funded at its original level and there is
a strong possibility it will eventually receive ongoing funding for
a three year period. We look forward to working more closely
with the local Aboriginal community.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2007 - 2008
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Centre Staff
Wendy Brown
Sharon Callaghan Phillip Dicalfas Kay Elsner
Leslie Farrell Vikki Garber
Maroun Germanos Amie Grierson Lucy Houweling Vesna Horley
Julie Lee Linda Meyns Eleonora Raseni Amanda Smithers Carolyne Turner Liz Turnbull Warren Wheeler Financial Manager/Administrator (Retired)
CCAS Coordinator/Community Legal
Education Worker
Principal Solicitor
Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
Tenants Advocate
Financial Manager/Administrator
Financial Counsellor
Tenants Advocate
Generalist Solicitor
Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
Tenancy Team Leader/IT Administrator
Generalist Solicitor
Administrative Assistant
Centre Coordinator
Child Support Solicitor
Welfare Rights Solicitor (Parental Leave)
Tenants Advocate
Contract /Locum Staff
Linda Brazier
Jody Clark Eleisha Constable
Truda Gray
Eunice Harding
Simon Howard Leah Janetzki
Julia Leonard
Jenna McConnachie Josephine Murphy
Jonathon Paniagua Alison Seidel Norma Symons
Glenda Stares
Judi Teesdale
Ian Turton
Angela Vespoli Community Legal Education Worker
Aboriginal Legal Access Worker
Family Law Project Worker
Generalist Solicitor/Project Worker
Administrative Assistant
Generalist Solicitor
Tenants Advocate
Tenants Advocate
Project Worker
Project Worker
Tenants Advocate
Project Worker
Administrative Assistant
Family Law Solicitor
Child Support Solicitor
Welfare Rights Solicitor
Children’s Court Assistance Scheme
Seconded Staff
Matt Ball
Alison Bradford Belinda Caruana Jasminka Cicic David Dwyer Kim Fletcher Lauren Gallina
Eileen Gibson Michelle Godwin Maxyne Graham Amy Hans Ansu Kamara Jessie Milovanic Danna Nelse
Glenda Pearce Ange Reh David St Quintin Tamara Smedley Gerry Trail Scott Woods Wollongong Youth Services
Wollongong Youth Services
Shellharbour City Council
Illawarra Multicultural Services
Wollongong Youth Services
Illawarra Youth Housing
Southern Youth and Family Services
Southern Youth and Family Services
Illawarra Youth Housing
Warrawong Community Development
Southern Youth and Family Services
Illawarra Multicultural Services
Illawarra Multicultural Services
The Rail Neighbourhood Association
Interchange Illawarra
Berkeley Youth Project
Drug and Alcohol Community Youth Team
Central Illawarra Youth Services
Southern Youth and Family Services
Southern Youth and Family Services
Lachlan Bryant
Hayley Kelloway Ray Clack Jen Gifford Iriaka Ross Committee Member
Committee Member
Committee Member (Resigned)
Committee Member
Committee Member
Volunteer Solicitors
Peter Bahlmann Lachlan Bryant Nicholas Burke
Mark Bye
Raymond Clack Kim Cooper Martin Culleton Robert Davidson Michael Davies Tom Ellicott Danaë Harvey Wayne Holden James Isabella Hayley Kelloway Dianna Kovacevic Kerry Kyriakoudes Bill Lawson Neill McCarthy
Travis McGeachy
Michael McGrath Anna Masi Anne Mowbray Melea Mullard David Potts Peter Robinson
David Schier
Michael Sergent Jennifer Shelton Laura Vatovec
Helen Volk Michelle Walsh Tony Williamson Ann Woods Greg Woods Peter Woods
Linda Wright Michelle Wright
Bahlmann Burke Lawyers
Dawson Lawyers
Bahlmann Burke Lawyers
BIC Legal
Legal Aid NSW
DGB Lawyers
Russell McLelland Brown
Williamson & Isabella
Maguire & McInerney
Access Business Lawyers
Danaë Harvey
Wayne Holden
Williamson & Isabella
RMB Lawyers
Dribbus Kovacevic
Hansons Lawyers
William Lawson
Creswick & McCarthy
Hansons Lawyers
Russell, McLelland & Brown
Hansons Lawyers
Verekers Lawyers
Kelly Mullard White Solicitors
Kells the Lawyers
Williamson & Isabella
Verekers Solicitors
Legal Aid NSW
Heard McEwan Lawyers
Heard McEwan Lawyers
Williamson & Isabella
Turner Freeman
Williamson & Isabella
Hansons Lawyers
Hilton King Solicitors
Peter Woods & Associates
DGB Lawyers
Carroll & O’Dea
University and TAFE Volunteers
Corrine Baird
Aaron Boom
Courtney Bowie
Donna Brotherson
Brendan Cook
Emily Cukalevski
Morgan Enderfield
Ebonie Fusarelli
Amanda Gilkes
Eve Gray
Abigail Haseltine
Phillip Jones
Jenna McConnachie
Jo Murphy
Skye Rae
Mary-Kate Rankin
Rachel Walls
Anna Zervos
Management Committee
Judith Stubbs John Littrich Debbie Langton Jennifer Briscoe Chair
Deputy Chair
Committee Member
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
The Administration Team has experienced considerable change over this twelve month period. It remains responsible for the Centre’s financial, IT and records management as well as acting as the Centre’s first point of contact with clients and stakeholders.
Staffing however has changed dramatically. Staffing over the 2009/10 year has included:
Wendy Brown
Administrator/Financial Manager
Vikki Garber
Administrator/Financial Manager
Vesna Horley
Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
(retired February 2010)
Kay Elsner
(employed February 2010)
Receptionist/Administrative Assistant
(retired June 2010)
(employed May 2010)
Julie Lee
IT Administrator
Eleonora Raseni Administrative Assistant
Angela Vespoli Bookkeeper (resigned November 2009)
Eunice Harding Administrative Assistant (locum)
Norma Symons Administrative Assistant (locum)
In 2008 Wendy, our Administrator/Financial Manager for over 20
years, made the decision to prepare for retirement. She reduced
her hours to three days a week and the Centre employed a
Bookkeeper, Angela Vespoli, to assist her with the payroll and
related activities. Angela resigned her contract in November to
have her third child and was partly the impetus for Wendy to
make the decision to retire in the new year.
was also the epitome of unflappable, a very useful trait in an
environment which has the potential on occasions of being quite
challenging. Like Wendy she will be missed. After a few weeks
training with Kay, Vesna has taken over the role and has begun
establishing her own approach to the position.
Wendy was one of the Centre’s earliest employees having
joined the service in 1989 as Bookkeeper. As the Centre grew,
so did her responsibility which was reflected in the renaming of
her position as Administrator/Financial Manager. By the time
of her retirement Wendy was responsible for the payroll of over
20 employees, the supervision of the Administration team as
well as managing the Centre’s funding streams and the relevant
reporting. Wendy also contributed to the community legal sector
with her involvement in the CCLCG and her time on the Board.
Wendy’s careful management of Centre’s finances has left the
Centre in a very strong financial position. Her understanding of
the needs and the history of the ILC and the community legal
sector generally will be missed.
Wendy has not entirely disappeared. She is mentoring our
new Administrator/Financial Manager, Vikki Garber to ensure
a smooth handover. With Vikki’s employment the Bookkeeper
position ceased to exist.
Three months later we were faced with another significant
change. Kay has been the face of the Centre for over twelve
years working on the front desk. She possessed in-depth
knowledge of local agencies and organisations and immediate
recall of all postcodes. She was an excellent proof reader. She
Angela Vespoli
Eleonora Raseni
Kay Elsner
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Finding a suitable Administration locum has been difficult. Last
year the Centre entered an agreement with a local employment
agency. Two locums were trained and have proved to be a
timely and valuable asset. On top of Wendy and Kay retiring,
another long term staff member has been on extended sick
leave. Our two locum staff, Eunice and Norma, have been
invaluable. Eunice in particular has not only worked on the front
desk but has also taken over data entry, file management and
provided support to both Wendy and Vikki.
Despite staff changes the Administration Team continues
to support the Centre in their provision of services to
our community. This has included finalising the Centre’s
refurbishment program. The Centre has now been repainted
and recarpeted and the new air-conditioning is appreciated.
Information Technology is the responsibility of the
Administration Team. The program of upgrading computer
hardware continues and we are reviewing our website, updating
its look and content.
In 2010 the Centre celebrates 25 years of service to the
Illawarra. Over that period there has been a considerable
increase in funding and in the number of services provided by
the Centre. The Centre is currently organising a celebration in
late 2010.
Wendy Brown
Vikki Garber
Vesna Horley
General Law Project
As of June 2010 the Generalist team consists of:
Phillip Dicalfas
Simon Howard
Lucy Houweling
Linda Meyns
Judi Teesdale
Carolyne Turner
Sharon Callaghan
Linda Brazier
Glenda Stares
Eleisha Constable
Principal Solicitor
Generalist and Credit & Debt Solicitor (4 days per week)
Generalist and Credit & Debt Solicitor (3 days per week)
Generalist Solicitor (2 days per week)
Child Support Solicitor (Locum)
Child Support Solicitor (Long Service Leave)
Community Legal Education Worker (Leave)
Community Legal Education Worker (Locum)
Family Law Solicitor (Consultant)
Project Worker
Phillip Dicalfas
The workers are funded by both the State and Commonwealth Governments through the Community Legal Service Funding
Program administered by Legal Aid NSW and Fair Trading NSW.
Client Services
The General Law Project offers the following advice services:
• Telephone advice sessions on general legal matters two
afternoons and one morning each week of two hours
• Telephone advice covering child support available as
• Appointment sessions with a volunteer solicitor one
afternoon each fortnight for clients who require an
interpreter, have a disability or a specific need for a face to
face interview
• Appointment sessions with volunteer solicitors every
Thursday evening at Wollongong Library
• Appointment sessions at the Illawarra Women’s Health
Centre every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month
• Drop-in sessions at Kedesh Rehabilitation Services every
two months.
We have continued our partnership with Ann Woods, a
private solicitor and Registered Migration Agent, who
provides free migration advice at the Centre on a monthly
This year volunteer law students started assisting staff and
volunteer lawyers at Wollongong library during the Thursday
evening advice roster.
In 2009/2010 the General Law Project advised over 1,000
Community development activities during the year have
• Participating in the International Day for the Elimination of
Violence against Women.
Linda Meyns
Simon Howard
• Attending Community Legal Centres NSW (previously
known as Combined Community Legal Centres Group
or CCLCG) Law Reform meetings we share strategies,
resources and develop collaborative approaches to a range
of law reform issues
• Providing input into a public interest law subject for fourth
and fifth year students studying Law at the University of
• Attending a stall in the Wollongong Mall for Law Week.
• Attending JGOS meetings (Joint Guarantee of Service in
relation to assisting people with mental health issues living
in Housing NSW accommodation).
• Presenting at the CLCNSW State Conference Rural
Regional and Remote day about our welfare rights and
financial counselling services.
• Corresponding with charities to ensure they support the pilot
Work and Development Order scheme for people to work off
• Contributing to a letter to the Daily Telegraph in support of
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
General Law Project (Continued )
• Meeting with the candidate for the Federal seat of Throsby.
• Distributing our brochures through University of Wollongong
Orientation Week.
• Attending quarterly meetings of all legal centre principal
solicitors in NSW (Professional Issues Committee of
The General Law Project provides advice and representation
to clients in the following areas of law:
victims’ compensation
some AVO applications
debt matters where the creditor is a financial institution
child support
employment matters
and other matters of public interest.
In 2009/2010 the General Law Project opened files and
represented clients in over one hundred matters.
Casework trends
We continue to adopt a strategic approach to our casework
so we can focus our limited resources on matters that have
a strong social justice element. Much of our work is in civil
matters not traditionally taken up by private solicitors.
We provide advice and representation in discrimination
matters. We act in complex victims’ compensation matters
that typically involve childhood sexual assault and domestic
violence never reported to police or where no prosecution has
During the year we continued to receive calls from people
who had been unfairly dismissed from their employment. We
advised them and acted for some under the new Fair Work
The following shows the general focus of our casework
is targeting those whose access to justice is significantly
During the past year the ILC has provided assistance to
an increasing number of people in our community seeking
assistance with employment law problems.
Case Study 1
In an unfair dismissal claim a client of the ILC was dismissed
after more than ten years service with a registered club as a bus
driver. The employer tried to insist that our client was a casual
employee despite have worked regular hours (with expectation
of ongoing employment) for over ten years. The ILC put forward
substantial legal arguments in opposition to the employers
assertion of casual employment. In the circumstances we argued
for a substantial redundancy payment for our client. We secured
for our client the maximum redundancy entitlements payable to
our client.
Case Study 2
Our client was on maternity leave from her job at a local day
care centre. New owners purchased the day care centre and
dismissed our client before her return to work. It was ironic that a
business which caters for the needs of working mothers should
treat our client in this way. We commenced proceeding in Fair
Work Australia (the new Federal industrial tribunal) claiming
unfair dismissal. The matter settled after vigorous negotiations
on terms which were very favourable to our client.
Victims’ Compensation
Case Study 3
We were successful in assisting a client with an appeal to the
Victims’ Compensation Tribunal which was almost five years out
of time. The matter involved a young girl who had been sexually
assaulted. Her father (who has severe mental health issues) had
made the original claim which was dismissed for lack of evidence
and had not lodged an appeal within the three month time limit.
He came to the Centre with little understanding of what had
occurred and the process involved. By obtaining evidence from
the father’s treating psychiatrist an appeal was lodged which
resulted in the child being awarded several thousand dollars to
be held in trust until the victim turns 18.
We won a victims’ compensation matter for a client who was
sexually assaulted as a child. The client received a high award
even though the incident occurred a long time ago.
We also won a victims’ compensation appeal. The assessor had
found against our client but on appeal the magistrate made an
award for domestic violence.
In another case we won a victims’ compensation matter for a
client who was very happy with the outcome, as the perpetrator
having been found not guilty in the criminal matter due to lack of
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Credit and Debt
Other Areas of Law
Over the past year we have successfully assisted home owners
who have experienced a range of financial and other difficulties
and fallen behind in their mortgage payments to lenders. In
most of these cases we have successfully negotiated for the
capitalisation of arrears and/or an extension of the loan period
enabling our clients to resume monthly repayments without
further possession proceedings. In many of these cases
proceedings where commenced in the Consumer Trader &
Tenancy Tribunal in order to give our clients a strong position
from which we are able to negotiate.
Case Study 5
Case Study 4
We commenced legal proceedings against a door to door
sales company and a linked credit/finance provider. Our
client was sold exorbitantly expensive home mathematics
tutoring software for her children. The sale was financed by
a high interest loan from a finance company that specialises
in these type of transactions. At the time of the sale our client
was not made aware of the finance company’s involvement
and the interest/costs associated with the finance. Our client
was mislead believing she was entering a transaction with
the retailer to pay for the product by interest free instalments.
The sales person did not leave with the client any documents
relating to the finance company. Our client only learned of the
finance arrangements when she was subsequently contacted
by them. Furthermore the software was not fit for purpose,
given that one of our client’s children has serious learning
difficulties and disabilities. As part of our preparation for the
hearing of this case we obtained a comprehensive research
paper prepared by several academics who have closely studied
the highly manipulative techniques adopted by ‘in home’
salespersons. The research paper was filed and served in the
proceedings. Under the relevant laws, the finance company
was liable for any conduct (including wrongdoing) engaged in
by the retailer and its agents. The finance company chose to
settle with us rather than defend the matter. The matter was
settled on very favourable terms, which included a refund (with
some interest) from the finance company of amounts our client
had paid.
The ILC assisted a hearing impaired client with serious
health issues. Our client was appointed co-executor of his
mother’s estate but was subjected to disturbing harassment,
discrimination and abuse from his siblings. The solicitors
administering the estate were not prepared to take into account
our client’s disabilities when communicating about the affairs of
the estate. We assisted our client to successfully navigate the
matter, receive necessary information and instruct the estate
solicitors in obtaining a grant of probate in the Supreme Court.
We also assisted clients in hospital with Advanced Care
Directive and enduring guardianship.
We obtained pro bono assistance for a client whose children
were being unfairly treated by a trustee. We also got pro bono
assistance for an East Timorese man whose insurer was
refusing to pay for surgery on his kidney stone.
The links between casework and law reform underpins all the
work of the Centre and highlights the connections between
individual legal issues and systemic developments that affect
The Generalists participated in a number of law reform projects
and campaigns across a range of issues.
We addressed the Federal House of Representative’s Standing
Committee on Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development
and Local Government at Parliament House in Sydney, along
with Alastair McEwan (Director CLCNSW) and Alan Kirkland
(CEO, LegalAid NSW) in relation to the impact of the global
financial crisis on legal provision in regional, rural and remote
We put together anecdotes for an Indigenous committee in
relation to discrimination by police.
We made a law reform submission to the NSW Sentencing
Council in relation to non-conviction orders. We were generally
supportive of the courts being able to continue to impose no fine
and no gaol sentence.
We attended the Community Consultation for the State Plan
2009 Review and raised issues of ongoing funding in general,
as well as the Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP) funding,
Social And Community Services (SACS) award funding and the
need for better and cheaper public transport.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Our Human Rights Working Group sent an addendum to our
submission to the national human rights consultation. We wrote
to the Prime Minister, member for Throsby and Member for
Cunningham to ask them to adopt the report of the National
Human Rights Consultation and enclosed our submissions.
We attended meetings to discuss law reform issues at
Wollongong Local Court with credit/debt workers.
We were interviewed on ABC Radio and for an article in the
Illawarra Mercury in relation to consumer issues.
We contributed to the National Association of Community Legal
Centres’ (NACLC) shadow report to United Nations on the
Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In 2009 we asked a law student to research the law requiring
private bus operators in the Illawarra to charge the same
prices as public buses in Sydney. In particular we asked
if that law could be used to require the Illawarra buses to
provide discounted ten-trip tickets which have been available
in Sydney for a long time. We also wrote to the NSW Minister
for Transport. In May 2009 we received a reply to the letter
confirming that the discounted ten-trip tickets were being
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
We wrote to local members regarding Residential Tenancies
At the end of 2009 we made a submission to the
Commonwealth Attorney General on access to justice issues.
The lengthy submission document was in response to a report
published by the Federal Attorney-General’s Access to Justice
Taskforce. Our submission, entitled “Access to Justice from the
Perspective of the Illawarra Legal Centre”, followed on from our
attendance at the Attorney General’s consultation on Access to
Sharon, in consultation with ILC solicitors, made a contribution
to the Youth Justice Coalition submission on spent convictions
for young offenders.
Sharon attended the Community Legal Centres NSW
(CLCNSW) policy and law reform meetings quarterly and is
working in conjunction with others on fines and other juvenile
justice issues.
Child Support Project
Client Services
The Illawarra Legal Centre’s Child Support Project offers casework, community legal education and law reform.
Carolyne Turner - Solicitor
Areas of Casework
Casework is provided through telephone advice sessions,
advocacy and representation with agencies, tribunals and
Casework has covered a variety of legal issues involving
the enforcement of arrears, objections to CSA decisions,
applications for change of assessments, and appeals or
applications to the SSAT or the FMC.
Child support enquiries continue to cover a wide variety
of areas including, applying to change administrative
assessments under the ten reasons provided in the legislation,
objecting to decisions made by the Child Support Agency
(CSA) and enforcing arrears.
This year we have also assisted parents in Appeals against
CSA Decisions. Several clients have appealed Child Support
Agency decisions to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal
(SSAT). We were successful in appealing to the Administrative
Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and also successfully appealed a SSAT
Decision on a point of law to the Federal Magistrates Court
Trends in Casework
During the 2009/2010 reporting period the child support
casework of the Centre has finalised a number of ongoing,
complex matters that required the assistance of counsel. We
were fortunate to receive pro bono representation for our
clients in quite complex matters. It is pleasing to report that
almost all of our matters pursued through the court system
were successful for our clients.
In addition, paternity matters are consistently sought because
of the connection to child support and Centrelink. The majority
of these cases have been referred by Centrelink social workers
because of the background and difficult nature of the matter.
We assist where there is a need and assistance elsewhere is
unavailable or difficult.
An interesting development over the past year has been the
increase in applications for a change of name for young people
in their teens about to apply for their driver’s licence or TFN.
We thank the two pro bono barristers Louise Goodchild and
Justin Doyle who willing gave their time and expertise this year
and also Judi Teesdale who stepped into the project when
Carolyne was on leave.
Case Study 1
Our client instructed that her child’s father owed several
thousands of dollars in child support arrears. She had heard
that the father was to receive an inheritance. We were able to
require the CSA to issue a s72B Notice to the solicitor handling
the Estate. Because the solicitor was controlling money on the
child support debtor’s behalf the money was able to be paid to
the CSA and then to our client who recovered the total amount
of arrears owed to her.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Child Support Project (Continued )
Case Study 2
Our client had successfully progressed through a rigorous
change of assessment situation and once the time limit date
had past had believed that to be the end of it. Unknown to her
the other party had made an application to the SSAT for an
extension of time to appeal the CSA decision. Our client had
made decisions regarding the level of care for the child based
on her understanding that the matter had been finalised. We
successfully appealed the SSAT decision to the FMC. We
identified the legislation’s failure to protect the rights of a
person affected by the SSAT decision to grant an extension
of time.
Case Study 3
Our client presented with a debt statement from the CSA for
an amount in excess of $130,000 made up of about $65,000
in child support arrears stemming from an agreement he had
signed many years previous and penalties of about $65,000.
The process we undertook to reduce his debt was an application to the FMC to set aside the Agreement because it was
continuing to accrue arrears for our client. We managed to
have it set aside from a date shortly after it was entered into
because our client had been unemployed and on benefits. We
then successfully applied to the CSA to have the penalties set
aside. Our client’s debt was reduced to less than $10,000.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
During the past year the project used funding from oneoff grants from the Commonwealth Attorney General’s
Department to research the impact of the 2006 child support
changes on our local community. The result of that research
showed that issues around domestic violence continue to have
a huge influence on parents being able to receive the correct
amount of child support.
Linking advice and casework to systemic issues provides
positive outcomes for the community. Through the project’s
general work we can identify areas of the child support
process that are unfair or where there are systemic failures
that not only impact on the individual client but also affect the
community. Casework thus informs law reform issues or CLE
needs. The project continues to be strongly connected to the
national Network of Child Support Solicitors and together we
raise awareness of child support issues and changes.
Community Legal Education (CLE)
Sharon Callaghan
Truda Gray
Linda Brazier
Community education continues to play an important part in our centre’s overall commitment to inform
and empower the community. Broadly, the aims of CLE are to increase people’s understanding of the
law, the legal system and how it impacts on our lives.
Sharon Callaghan has fulfilled the role of CLE Worker since early 2007 until 2010. Truda Gray supported
Sharon in 2009. The two-day per week position was then taken up by Linda Brazier in March 2010.
Since January 2010 the ILC has also been funded by the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department
to work in partnership with the Wollongong Family Relationship Centre (FRC) to provide legal education
sessions to FRC clients as part of their Child in Focus program. Glenda Stares, a family law solicitor
has been employed to deliver the sessions and work with Eleisha Constable to develop a range of
Anti Poverty Week
Education strategies have included:
The ILC marked the week with a stall in Wollongong Mall in
October 2009. Members of the public were encouraged to
discuss matters of concern with our scribes, who produced
letters that were sent to relevant government agencies and
representatives. Letters were written on issues such as
housing, public transport, education and social security. The
event proved very positive by giving ordinary people in the
street a voice.
• Information summaries distributed to several local
newsletters and online bulletins
Fines and Work & Development Orders
Education about young people and fines debt has been a
significant part of the CLE program. Since the completion of
the first section of the Young People and Fines Project carried
out in collaboration with the University of Wollongong, we have
developed and distributed widely sought after Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ’s) sheets and wallet cards.
• TAFE workshops
• A regional education session with representatives of the
Attorney Generals and State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO)
for over thirty community and government workers
• Workshops for local health workers, charitable organisation
representatives, multicultural services network and peak
network participants, Children’s Court Users Group,
Aboriginal Peak network members and youth housing
• Targeting of mainstream media, print and radio, to reach
local residents
• Presentation at the South Coast Youth Conference.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Community Legal Education (Continued )
Relationships and Centrelink
Child In Focus
We joined with ACON Illawarra at the launch of the “Wear it
With Pride” campaign in March. The aim was to bring attention
to recent changes to the law which removed discrimination
toward same sex couples particularly in relation to welfare and
Centrelink benefits. The booklet “Relationships and Centrelink”
was reviewed and reprinted to take these changes into
account. The booklet was so popular that it was necessary to
do a second print run in June.
This program, organised by the Wollongong FRC, is aimed at
people with children, who are going through separation and/
or divorce. The ILC component provides an overview of the
law and processes around providing for children, including
parenting plans, consent orders and child support. It also
discusses the benefits of using the Family Dispute Resolution
process as opposed to taking the matter to court. The sessions
lasting on average around an hour have been held most weeks
since March and based on feedback, have been well received.
This program has also been responsible for the development of
a number of factsheets including:
Law Week
This was celebrated in May 2010 with a community information
stall in Wollongong Mall. As always, these are successful
events attracting a lot of attention and raising our profile. A
steady stream of visitors called for information predominantly
about the services we offer, as well as specific information on
wills and child support.
Shared Parental Responsibility
Recovery Orders
The Best Interests of the Child
Contraventions, and
Changing child’s surname
We regularly receive requests for information sessions and
workshops from a diverse range of organisations and groups.
These requests cover a broad range of topics and call on the
collective expertise of all the members of our generalist team.
Throughout the year these have included:
• Presentations on Wills, Power of Attorney and Guardianship
to the Aboriginal community, Italian seniors group with the
aid of an interpreter and Compeer, a social group for people
living with a mental illness.
• Workshops for young people on cyber bullying, internet
safety and sexting.
Robert Morris from the Office of Fair Trading and Phillip Dicalfas from the ILC
provided information at the Law Week stall in Wollongong in May 2010.
Credit and Debt
Financial issues, particularly credit and debt have been
identified as an area of growing concern. However, it is an
area that presents challenges for community education. One
strategy has been to provide information to workers within
community settings. A PowerPoint presentation has been
developed by Simon Howard which was presented to a
community workers’ quarterly forum.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
• General information sessions on the services offered by
our centre, presented to community sector workers, student
groups and specific client groups (eg. Kedesh House).
CLC National Conference
Sharon Callaghan and Linda Meyns co-presented a workshop
on “Legal Theatre in Community Education” in October 2009 at
the Perth conference.
South Coast Youth Conference
A session was presented entitled “What Do You Do With Your
Fines Debt Now?”
The aim of the workshop was to outline the policy and
legislative changes around young people and fines.
In addition, the workshop looked at how youth sector workers
could assist a young person to deal with their fines debt.
As always, we have maintained a strong presence in local
media throughout the year. Articles have appeared in print
on issues such as Anti–Poverty Week, human rights, young
people and fines, and Law Week.
Radio interviews were given on a range of topics including:
Sharon Callaghan presenting at the National CLC Conference in Perth in 2009.
Human rights and refugees, by Simon Howard
Young people and fines by Sharon Callaghan
Mobile phones and consumer law by Phillip Dicalfas
Promoting Law Week by Sharon Callaghan and Linda
CLCNSW State Conference
Sharon Callaghan, with her Sydney colleague Julie Foreman,
gave a presentation on community education in May 2010.
The session outlined PhotoVoice, which is a creative way to
open a conversation, inspire ideas and produce images on
interesting aspects of community life through the use of photos
and imagery. Attendees were then invited to tell a story after
selecting a photo from a diverse selection.
This session reminded workers that a PhotoVoice project is
a way of letting a specific community group know about their
centre and the work they do. It can also be a way of exploring
human rights issues that may impact on a specific community
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Tenants Service
The past year has been an exciting and busy time for the
Tenants Service with the development of the new South
Coast Outreach project and the extensive review of the
Residential Tenancies Act 1987.
Alongside these developments it has been business as usual
with Tenants Advocates continuing to provide quality advice
and assistance to tenants and those who live in residential
parks as their principal place of residence.
The Tenants Service advised 1,643 new clients in the year
1 July 2009 to 30 June 2010. Of these, 236 were extended
advices that lasted for an hour or more. These extended
advice activities could be a single contact on a complex
matter but are more usually multiple contacts by a client
about the same issue. A large part of this advice is provided
during phone advice sessions held daily at Wollongong and
as required during opening hours at the South Coast offices.
Over the past year the Tenants Service has taken further
steps to expand services to tenants outside the Wollongong
Local Government Area. There has been an increased focus
on the Wingecarribee, Shoalhaven and Far South Coast.
The South Coast Outreach project has been operational since
February 2010 and has already provided much improved
services to tenants and park residents in the Bega Valley and
Eurobodalla Local Government Areas.
The provision of the duty advocacy service at the Nowra
Tribunal has improved services to tenants in the Shoalhaven.
In the Wingecarribee the focus has been on service
promotion, improving links with other agencies and
community education.
These strategies have led to an increase in the number
of clients assisted in each of the target areas, as well as
improved services to those clients.
2008 - 2009
2009 - 2010
Outside catchment
Bega Valley
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
In 2009-2010 the Tenants Service had 77 files open where
extensive advocacy and/or Tribunal representation was
Tenants Advocates appeared at the Tribunal 152 times. Ninetyone of these were duty advocacy matters and 61 casework
Out of the 152 matters that the Service was involved with at
the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) only three
adverse decisions were made against tenants and only one of
these was an open file, the other two being matters picked up
on duty advocacy. All other matters were decided by consent
orders or the determination was in the tenant’s favour.
Tenants Advocates had some significant casework
achievements over the year including:
• A decision by the CTTT not to terminate on a no grounds
notice due to the circumstances of the case.
• An order that the park owner consent to an assignment as
their refusal was unreasonable. This involved a dwelling
situated on encroached land vested in the Lake Illawarra
• A successful Housing Appeals Committee appeal regarding
an alleged debt of $7000 from a former Housing NSW
tenancy. The debt was found to be unsubstantiated and the
tenant was awarded priority housing.
Name change
Partly due to the addition of the South Coast Outreach service
and a need to identify better with our service area, in May of
this year we reverted to our original name of Illawarra & South
Coast Tenants Service. We are in the process of changing our
publicity to reflect the name change.
Residential parks
The Service has undertaken an increased amount of casework
with park residents in the past twelve months. This often
involves working with groups of residents to assist them to take
action against the park owner.
The biggest group we worked with consisted of 68 residents
who were challenging excessive rent increases at a park. The
Tenants Service did not represent the residents at the Tribunal
hearing but did all of the case preparation on their behalf.
At a park in the Shoalhaven residents are being assisted
with applications in both the Tenancy and General division
of the CTTT regarding unlawful entry fees allegedly required
by and paid to the park owners. The matter involves multiple
respondents and complex crossover issues under the Fair
Trading Act 1987, Consumer Claims Act 1998 and the
Residential Parks Act 1998, as well as common law torts,
with the collective claims totalling in excess of $60,000.00.
This matter is of significant public interest in the prevention
of arrangements that enable operators to bypass statutory
prohibitions against the charging of such fees.
Currently the South Coast Tenants Service is assisting
18 residents of a caravan park in the Eurobodalla Local
Government Area who have had ongoing repairs issues
including problems with water supply, roads, fencing and
lighting. The water delivered to the sites for the past 12 months
is brown in colour and there are signs throughout the park
warning people not to drink the water, use it for cooking or
brushing teeth. The residents have made an application to
the CTTT for the repairs to be carried out, rent reduction and
compensation. Whilst the matter has not yet been finalised
the application alone has prompted the park owner to start
addressing the repairs issues which the residents have been
demanding for two years.
The service has assisted numerous individual residents with
problems ranging from interference with sale or refusal of
assignment to, interference with peace, comfort and privacy,
repairs and termination.
The South Coast Project
The Illawarra Legal Centre provided the funding to extend
service delivery to tenants and residents on the Far South
Coast and the South Coast Tenants Service was established.
The funding enables the service to run for 12 months during
which time it is hoped continuous funding can be secured to
enable it to continue and become an integrated part of the
Tenants Service.
The South Coast Tenants Service provides an outreach service
to tenants and residents from Ulladulla to Eden. It operates
from Bega on Mondays and Tuesdays and Batemans Bay
Wednesdays and Thursdays.
As well as providing advice and advocacy for tenants and park
residents, the program also offers information and assistance
to anyone who is experiencing problems with Centrelink
entitlements. To date ten referrals have been made to the
Welfare Rights Solicitor at the ILC.
The service has attended a number of interagency network
meetings, visited in excess of 40 services throughout the
Bega Valley and Eurobodalla Shires and had publicity through
the Bega District News and ABC local radio. Community
legal education programs have been delivered to the local
community at Wallaga Lake and to staff at a local women’s
Referrals have come from various sources including job
network providers, local Members of Parliament, Housing
NSW, Community Services and Centrelink. The service has
provided information and advice to 94 people. Of these, 54
received extended advice sessions of more than two hours
and 13 files were opened to resolve often complex issues. The
service provides duty advocacy at both Batemans Bay and
Bega and has assisted 16 tenants who would otherwise have
had to represent themselves.
The private rental market, particularly on the Far South Coast,
is tight. In Bega there are currently two large developments,
which have seen an influx of workers. Local agents have
reported the developers calling real estate agents and saying
“we’ll take whatever rental properties you have available”. This
has left some agents with no properties for rent. This along
with long waiting lists for social housing makes it increasingly
difficult for low income families in the area.
Clients from the Far South Coast are reluctant to request repairs
for fear of being evicted and facing the very real likelihood of
homelessness. In addition there are times when tenants simply
do not have the means to access the services due to the lack of
public transport to and from the more remote areas. Currently
in Bega there are a number of homeless people living in an
abandoned motel. These people will be moved on shortly when
the property is demolished and will be forced to live rough, be
placed in temporary accommodation or “couch surf”.
Case Study 1
Tenant x, 60 years old and a member of the stolen generation,
has significant medical issues, no family support and lives in a
small community an hour’s drive from the nearest town. Eight
years ago tenant x, who was homeless at the time, approached
the local Aboriginal Lands Council for housing. They were
offered a property but before the tenancy commenced the
property burned down. Tenant x moved into an adjoining
property which was vacant without the Lands Council’s
consent. The house was dilapidated and had no electricity
Tenant x has remained at the premises and has carried out
work to bring the property to a reasonable standard. Tenant x
did not pay rent. In 2009, a service took over management of
the properties for the Lands Council. Communication between
the parties was adversarial and limited to letters. The landlord
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Tenants Service (Continued )
made an application to the CTTT to have tenant x recognised
as a tenant. The tribunal granted this and made orders that the
rent payable was $90.00 per week.
Tenant x was referred to the South Coast Tenants Service by a
local legal centre. The landlord had made another application
to the CTTT to end the tenancy due to rent arrears.
In the weeks leading to the hearing tenant x expressed a firm
belief that as a traditional owner of the land, the Residential
Tenancies Act did not apply and no rent should have to be
The Tenants Advocate (TA) explained to tenant x that eviction
would be the likely outcome of the hearing and again sent the
forms to have the tenant pay rent through Centrelink. One
week prior to the hearing tenant x contacted the service and
advised rent payments had commenced. The landlord agreed
to a further specific performance order.
At the hearing matters of repairs were raised however there
was no agreement by the landlord to carry out any work. The
TA carried out a home visit and wrote to the landlord on behalf
of tenant x requesting repairs. After an initial agreement the
landlord then informed South Coast Tenants Service that
they did not have sufficient funds for some of the repairs but
would provide tenant x with a new stove and rangehood and
would have insulation installed. The landlord was advised that
if the repairs were not undertaken the matter would be taken
to the CTTT. Whilst still not completed the repairs are being
organised and there has been a complete check of electrical
wiring in the property. Tenant x and the landlord are now
communicating and making necessary access arrangements
for the repairs to be carried out.
The Tenants Service said goodbye to long term locum
Jonathan Paniagua when he secured a full time job with the
Department of Health in Canberra.
We welcomed Julia Leonard as a part time Tenants Advocate,
working two days a week from January 2010.
Leah Janetzki also joined us as the outreach worker on the far
south coast in February 2010.
Duty Advocacy
In 2009/2010 the service assisted 81 ‘new’ clients in duty
advocacy. This was made up of 20 new clients in the first
half of the year and 61 in the second. The sharp increase in
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
numbers can primarily be attributed to the commencement
of the South Coast project in February. These numbers
demonstrate the importance to continue duty advocacy
services in the South Coast regions.
It should be noted that these numbers reflect new clients only
– ie: not previously advised in relation to the current matter.
Clients who received phone advice and were then assisted at
the Tribunal during duty advocacy are counted as ‘casework’.
Termination proceedings remain our focus at duty advocacy
with 52 of the 81 new clients facing eviction. Twenty-two
matters were for bond and/or compensation while the
remaining seven matters were for rent increase (one), arrears
(three), noise & nuisance (one) and repairs (two).
Of the terminations, 15 tenants agreed to a vacating date in
conciliation, while 22 entered into specific performance orders
in an attempt to retain their tenancy. Of the remaining 15
matters, seven were adjourned, four were dismissed, one was
withdrawn and three outcomes are unknown.
Case study 2
Ms B is a single mother with four teenage children all in high
school. Ms B presented at the Tribunal facing termination
proceedings for rent arrears. She had not sought legal advice
prior to the hearing. Though the arrears were minimal (15
days at the time the Notice of Termination was served), the
landlord’s agent was claiming the three-year tenancy was
persistently in arrears. This persistence may have been
sufficient for the Tribunal to terminate.
Ms B offered to repay the arrears and keep rent two weeks in
advance as required by the residential tenancy agreement.
She further offered a three-month relist. The agent declined
the offer and opted to have the matter heard.
The Illawarra and South Coast Tenants Service sought
leave to represent Ms B, which the landlord’s agent initially
opposed. The Member granted leave and heard the tenant’s
circumstances. During the hearing the agent disclosed that
water payments had regularly been deducted from the rent
account without the tenant’s consent. Such re-appropriation of
monies is not permitted under the Landlord and Tenant (Rental
Bonds) Act 1977.
The Tribunal ordered the landlord return the monies to the
correct account, thus minimising the arrears even further. The
Tribunal refused to terminate but did order Ms B to pay rent on
time in accordance with her agreement. A three month relist
was also granted to the landlord.
Case study 3
Ms J is a single mother of two young children. Ms J suffers
from anxiety and depression – a result of a previous violent
relationship. Ms J has been in her property for three years
during which time she has fallen behind in her rent. Ms J felt
intimidated by the landlord’s agent which made it difficult for
her to engage. Frustrated, the landlord served a No Grounds
Notice of Termination.
In conciliation, Ms J indicated the arrears were now quite
minimal. The agent was insistent on pursuing termination as
the notice was for ‘no grounds’ and the state of rent account
was irrelevant. The agent indicated the motivation behind
seeking termination was based primarily on Ms J’s failure to
In the hearing room the agent claimed the landlord wanted
vacant possession of the property in order to renovate. The
agent was unable to specify what renovations were going to be
conducted. The Tribunal granted Ms J leave to be represented
by an advocate and we then sought an adjournment with
procedural directions.
At the subsequent hearing, the Tribunal declined to terminate
as the landlord was unable to establish a need for the property.
Law Reform/Lobbying
The major law reform and lobbying activity occupying the focus
of the service in 2010 has been the first overhaul of residential
tenancy legislation in over 20 years.
Julie Lee
Warren Wheeler
The new legislation contains some significant improvements
and some disappointing changes, including the abolition of the
Tribunal’s discretion to refuse an order for termination where
the notice has been issued with ‘no grounds’. The Tenants
Service lobbied hard against the inclusion of such changes
both independently and in conjunction with the NSW Tenants
Union. Lobbying activities included meeting with members of
parliament and providing extensive written submissions prior to
the passing of the Bill.
The service has also engaged in lobbying around the mass
transfer of the freehold title of Housing New South Wales
properties to community housing providers. The service
submitted written questions to parliament raising concerns
highlighting the importance of adequate accountability
measures and requesting assurances that local community
housing boards of management are adequately qualified to
productively deal with such a significant public asset for broad
public benefit.
The service has also been actively questioning the cultural
appropriateness of changes to the rent setting methods in
social housing introduced to maximise the income streamed
from Commonwealth Rent Assistance. The service posed
written questions to parliament about the system potentially
causing significant financial hardship for Aboriginal tenants
as a result of methodology and implementation practices that
possibly lack adequate cultural consideration.
In addition the Tenants Service has regularly participated in the
Tenants Legal Working Party, the Parks Legal Working Party,
and the South Coast & Shoalhaven Combined Legal Service
Delivery group working collectively on a number of law reform
Leslie Farrell
Amie Grierson
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Financial Counselling and Credit & Debt Legal Services
financial and legal problems. These included combating
certain lending practices by various fringe lenders that prey on
people’s vulnerability and their desperate need to pay for car
repairs or registration or in some cases, the electricity bill. The
amount to be repaid in interest and other costs of borrowing is
in many cases equal to the amounts borrowed. Interest rates
of up to 48 percent per annum and other charges masked as
brokerage fees, are common in those loan contracts.
Maroun Germanos
The service continues to enjoy funding from the
Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments. The
aims of the service are to provide advocacy, advice and
assistance to people in this region who are facing financial
problems. Reasons for this may include unexpected
changes in circumstances caused by various factors such as
unemployment, illness and family breakdown.
The Commonwealth Department of Family, Housing,
Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Fair Trading
NSW provided funding to keep the service operating and
enabled the Centre to provide the equivalent of eight days
financial counselling and consumer credit legal services to the
The service has been operating at the Centre since 1989
and has proven successful in attracting clients from across
the region. Relationships with various groups, community
organisations, relevant government departments and major
charities are well established and the service is well known to
The service is provided by telephone advice and face-to-face
appointments. Telephone advice is scheduled across three
days but is also provided outside these hours where possible.
Fines and utility debts are still a major problem facing clients
who are on various forms of Centrelink income support. The
cost of housing in many cases is more than 50 percent of
the client’s income and does not leave enough money to
buy food or pay bills such as electricity and telephone. As a
consequence, many clients cannot afford to run a car because
of the costs involved in having one which in turn may prevent
them from looking for or getting to work if they successfully find
Motor vehicle accident debt is a growing problem for some
newly arrived migrants and refugees, mainly from Africa. This is
due to the costs of insurance or being unaware of the types of
insurance needed when owning a motor vehicle.
Case study
John attended the service seeking assistance to prevent
the sale of his home. He received a Notice of Default that
had expired a few days before he contacted us. John was
unemployed for five months and unable to pay the mortgage.
He was a single man. He was now in full employment and able
to resume normal mortgage repayments but needed assistance
to deal with the arrears.
The majority of the telephone contacts become face-to-face
interviews and on-going cases.
On a close check of the Notice of Default, it was discovered
that the notice was invalid because it failed to provide the
correct number of days, including service, as required by the
Consumer Credit Code. The bank was advised of this and
agreed to disregard the Notice.
The service was active in assisting a number of clients in the
Consumer, Trader & Tenancy Tribunal (CTTT) and Local Court,
making appearances on behalf of clients. In many of the cases
we were successful in achieving good outcomes.
The Financial Counsellor prepared an income and expenses
statement based on information provided by the client and
wrote to the bank on the client’s behalf seeking variation on
grounds of hardship. The request was to:
We continue to give priority to urgent problems such as
mortgage repossession, garnishee orders and other debt
recovery actions through the courts. Clients presented with
complex and multiple problems which resulted in more time
required to assist them.
The Consumer Credit Solicitor and the Financial Counsellor
worked closely to assist clients to deal with their complex
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
1. Defer monthly payments for five months to cover the period
the client was unemployed and could not afford to make the
2. Add the amount of arrears to the balance of the loan; and,
3. Extend the terms of the loan contract by the same period.
The bank agreed to the application and the client was able to
save his home.
Welfare Rights Service
The Community Legal Service Program of the Commonwealth
Attorney General’s Department funds the Welfare Rights
Service. The service provides free advice in relation to Social
Security laws and its administration through Centrelink to assist
people to maximise their entitlements, exercise their rights
and fulfil their obligations.The service provides four hours of
telephone advice per week but will also take calls outside the
scheduled hours where possible.
Liz Turnbull
Ian Turton
Welfare Rights undertook 246 advice activities in the
2009/2010 financial year. At the beginning of this period 27 files
were open with a further 52 files opened throughout the year,
whilst 54 files were closed.
As always the level of assistance provided in individual matters
is determined by our casework guidelines and includes
reference to the person’s ability to self represent, the target
groups identified in our planning day and current casework
Changes to the penalty provisions for Newstart Allowance
meant that there was an overall drop in the number of clients
having their Newstart Allowance payments suspended.
However, people continue to seek advice in relation to a
range of issues including member of couple assessments,
compensation preclusion periods and eligibility for Disability
Support Pension and Act of Grace payments. These latter
cases are particularly difficult because there is no effective
right of appeal from the decision that a person is not entitled to
The service successfully represented a client at the
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) who was facing eviction
from their premises following the cancellation of the Newstart
Allowance. We managed to have the person restored to
payments with arrears, which allowed them to make a lump
sum payment on outstanding rent and remain in their home.
The largest component of our casework is debt matters and the
service continues to be successful in obtaining debt waivers
at the different levels of appeal. However, there has been a
significant growth in the number of cases in which a debt has
been raised following a decision by Centrelink that a person
Liz Turnbull is employed as the Welfare Rights caseworker
nine days a fortnight. In May 2010 she went on parental leave
from which time Ian Turton has worked as a locum solicitor in
her absence.
is a member of a couple. These can be very complex cases
because it is often unclear whether a person is or is not living
in a relationship over a period of time.
As part of its work this project has worked with Tenancy on the
outreach program that operates on the Far South Coast. The
outreach workers within this program provide some advice
and refer clients to this project who are having problems with
Centrelink. To this end the project has both provided advice
to clients and represented them both by the provision of a
submission to an authorised review officer and at the SSAT
Case study 1
Clare had separated from her partner a number of years ago.
However, she remained on good terms with him because they
had two young children with whom he was in regular contact.
Clare moved into a rental property owned by her former
partner some time after their separation. He lived elsewhere
in another property. A tip off informed Centrelink that they
were still living together and Centrelink conducted some
investigations. Centrelink reached the decision that Clare was
a member of a couple and cancelled her parenting payments.
A $65,000 family tax benefit and parenting payment debt was
raised and our client threatened with prosecution.
Detailed research was undertaken to undermine the factual
basis of Centrelink’s decision. Our service represented
Clare at the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) and
was successful in having this debt waived and her benefits
restored. As this report goes to press we are representing
another client at the SSAT in a similar matter.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Welfare Rights Service (Continued )
Case study 2
Sharon is a “semi-skilled” woman in her mid 50’s. After some
years as an unsuccessful job seeker on Newstart Allowance
she purchased a small sandwich shop with an inheritance.
Centrelink was informed of the purchase and Sharon was
told that she was still eligible to receive benefits so long as
she complied with the terms of her activity agreement and
continued to report her income to Centrelink.
This arrangement continued for a number of years until
Centrelink reviewed the situation in December 2009 and
cancelled her payments. Sharon did not seek our assistance
until after the unsuccessful outcome of her appeal to the
SSAT. When she first approached our service the 28-day
time limit for the lodgement of her appeal from the SSAT had
We lodged an application to lodge her appeal out of time
with the AAT. Centrelink opposed this application. We were
successful on the interlocutory application and Sharon
was restored to payments pending the outcome of the final
appeal. She was able to use the lump sum payment of
arrears to clear her debts and pay her rent arrears thereby
saving her from eviction. The final hearing date is yet to be
set down by the AAT.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Community Legal Education/Community
A number of community legal education workshops have been
conducted for clients and the community sector over the past
year including:
TAFE students on welfare rights advocacy
Newly arrived communities in the Illawarra region
Parenting support groups
Centrelink social workers on the workings of the Legal
We have participated in a range of Centre-wide community
legal education and community events including Law Week and
Anti-Poverty Week and continue to undertake agency visits and
write articles for publication in community newsletters.
The Welfare Rights Solicitor wrote the Centrelink section of
the youth diary published by the Shoalcoast Legal Centre and
makes regular contributions regarding law reform via the policy
officer of the National Welfare Rights network.
Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (CCAS)
CCAS workers assist young people
attending the Port Kembla Children’s
Court by providing emotional support
and practical referral to appropriate
social support.
Sharon Callaghan, the CCAS
Coordinator works with a team of skilled
and experienced CCAS workers who
work on secondment from a diverse
group of community and youth sector
CCAS Education, Training
and Community Development
Young people and fines debt
Young people and debt, particularly fines
debt, has dominated CCAS education
and community development work in the
last twelve months. The completion of
the collaboration with the University of
Wollongong on the first part of the Young
People and Fines Project was not the
end of the story. We developed a widely
sought after Frequently Asked Questions
(FAQ fact sheet) and wallet cards for our
ongoing work. The next phase of the
Fines work has involved the following
• “Phone Out” afternoons to let people
know about Work and Development
Orders (WDO). This has resulted
in several face-to-face information
sessions at staff meetings and
ongoing mail outs
• Summaries of the issue were
distributed to several local targeted
• A TAFE workshop was developed,
including Attorney General’s and
State Debt Recovery Office (SDRO)
website navigation and CCAS fines
materials, with groups of students
• A regional education session with
representatives of the SDRO for
over 30 community and government
• Ongoing workshops on fines debt
with local health workers, charitable
organisation representatives,
multicultural services network and
peak network participants, Children’s
Court Users Group, Aboriginal peak
network members and youth housing
• Mainstream media, print and radio,
reached local residents. Information
on fines was also submitted to a
range of local community based
newsletters and online bulletins
• A presentation on Fines at the South
Coast Youth Conference
• Revisions of our submission on Fines.
Our resources and other materials assist
us to present education sessions on how
organisations need to officially register
to assist their clients apply for a WDO.
The WDO will help clients who work,
study or participate in activities to reduce
their fines debt. We have distributed
over 2,000 cards and FAQ brochures
following requests from around 50
We have had the valuable support of
volunteer students from Wollongong
TAFE and the University of Wollongong
to assist us get the word out about WDO
and fines debt.
The plain English information in our
materials means many who read them
report they are confident to pass the
information on to others. Through our
efforts to inform people about this project
we have strengthened our links with
many community organisation workers
who are seeking to assist their service
New factsheets are being developed
to supplement the existing FAQ sheet.
Submissions seeking further reforms are
still being developed.
Importantly, we have been able to
publicly discuss the human rights issues
that underpin the law changes.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Children’s Court Assistance Scheme (Continued )
Wallet card
Conversations with young
Peter Slattery shared his skills and
insights about the lives of young people
and communication. The video and
discussion started new conversations on
what are useful questions and how might
we ask them when talking with young
people who may need our assistance.
Sixty workers from local services came
including: Illawarra Youth Housing,
Albion Park Neighbourhood Centre,
Albion Park Youth and Community Care,
Illawarra Multicultural Services, Youth
Drug and Alcohol workers and the
majority of staff from Southern Youth and
Family Services.
contracts, employment, moving
out of home and other financial
transactions with Years 10,11 and
12 High School students in several
local high schools in the Illawarra.”
Young people and sex and the
One typical Term 4 SOR progress
report outlined how nine High Schools
reached 855 students in 2003. In 2004
SOR worked with 2000 students in the
Wollongong area and the program was
considering requests from Shellharbour
and the Shoalhaven in 2005.
Workshops dealing with young people
and sex and the law, sexting, bullying
and cyber bullying have been requested.
ILC generalist solicitors and CCAS
workers have contributed to the
discussions in these areas.
Federal Attorney General’s
Access to Justice
As well as attending the Wollongong
consultation, and taking the opportunity
to raise youth justice issues, we
forwarded a submission that outlined the
value of the Centre’s collaborative work
in our Start Out Right (SOR) education
“SOR is an interactive education
program covering consumer
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
We currently run an abbreviated SOR
program in local schools. The ILC
continues to seek ongoing funds for
our extended, creative school based
education work on contracts and credit
and debt issues.
Youth Justice Coalition (JYC)
The ILC is a member of the YJC. The
work of the CCAS project interlinks
around issues of bail, curfews, education,
homelessness, fines and other issues
affecting the lives of young people in the
juvenile justice system.
Young people out on bail
Meetings were held with NSW
Government and Opposition Ministers to
talk about issues arising in the area of
juvenile justice including, bail, curfews,
education, homelessness, fines debt and
support services. These conversations
provided opportunities to raise and
discuss important issues affecting some
young people attending the Children’s
Law Week
A Law Week stall in the mall provided
a useful way to disseminate our
information on fines debt and explain the
policy and legislative changes around
the Fines Act.
Having a Say: Connecting to local
CCAS works closely with:
• Refuges and supported
accommodation services
• Counsellors
• Southern Suburbs Taskforce
• Drug and Alcohol support
• Lake Illawarra Local Area Command
Aboriginal Consultative Committee
• Vocational and training services;
• Children’s Court Assistance Scheme
State Network
• Health clinics
• State and National Community Legal
Centre Youth Networks
Where do CCAS workers refer young
CCAS workers refer young people who
attend the Children’s Court to a diverse
range of community and government
services including:
• Financial counsellors
• Creative programs
• Sporting groups
• Disability support services
• Community programs
• Legal services.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Aboriginal Legal Access Program (ALAP)
Jody Clark
In the lead up to the new financial year 2009/2010, funding for
the Community Legal Centres NSW’s ALAP Program was in
doubt. After several submissions to the Public Purpose Fund
(PPF) funding was agreed to at half the previous level. As the
current position was already part-time it was agreed to keep
the position at its current level for a six month period. This
decision enabled Jody Clark to remain in the position.
Jody’s role remained essentially the same with its primary
focus being to improve access to justice within the Aboriginal
community by:
• Raising the profile of the ILC by promoting its legal services
within the Aboriginal community;
• Increasing the number of Aboriginal people accessing legal
services in the Illawarra;
• Enhancing the capacity of the Illawarra Legal Centre to
provide effective and culturally appropriate services to
Aboriginal people;
• Increase awareness of legal rights among the Illawarra
Aboriginal communities.
Part of the ALAP worker’s role is to act as a liaison and support
person for Aboriginal clients seeking legal assistance from
the ILC. In addition the ALAP worker seeks to listen to the
concerns and needs of the local Aboriginal community as a
whole and to identify the most effective strategies to enable this
community to access the ILC’s services.
Since joining the ILC, Jody has attended the Illawarra
Community Based Working Group (ICBWG). This monthly
meeting of Aboriginal government and community staff is well
attended and discusses a wide range of issues relevant to
their community. Jody continued to participate in a number of
subcommittees including the Law and Justice Cluster and the
Police Discrimination Committees.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
The Law and Justice Cluster is responsible for taking action on
legal issues raised at the ICBWG and focusing on issues such
as police discrimination, the Youth Offenders Act and Work and
Development Orders. As part of this work Jody was involved
in the development of a cultural awareness training program
for local police which not only covered information about
culture, interacting with Aboriginal people, history, etc but also
provided tips on how to ensure that the police presence helped
a situation rather than have the unintended effect of inciting
further problems.
Jody’s involvement with the Police Discrimination Committee
included working with police to develop a Memorandum of
Understanding to improve relations between local police and
the Illawarra Aboriginal community.
As a result of her involvement with both the NSW Attorney
General’s Aboriginal Advisory Group and the Police
Discrimination Committee, Jody helped organise a petition
around the deteriorating relationship between local police
and the Aboriginal community which resulted in a public
meeting between the Police and the community. Jody and a
representative from the Attorney General’s also attended a
private meeting with the Superintendant of the Warilla Police
Station to discuss the local police complaints process.
Jody has promoted the ILC within a range of organisations.
These have included amongst others:
• Wollongong Aboriginal Medical Centre
• Anglicare
• Community Development Employment Projects
• Coomaditchee
• Dubai (Women’s Elders Group)
• Fair Trading NSW
• Illawarra Aboriginal Corporation and Cultural Centre
• Illawarra Local Land Council
• Illawarra ITEC
• NSW Juvenile Justice
• NSW Department of Education & Training
• Noogalook Aboriginal Childcare Centre
• University of Wollongong Aboriginal Education Unit
• Warrawong Community Centre
• West Street Centre
• Wollongong City Council
• Wollongong Youth Network
The number of young Aboriginal people attending the Port
Kembla Children’s Court is a concern to the local Aboriginal
community and was a point of discussion with the ICBWG Law
and Justice Cluster Committee. In response to these concerns,
Jody where possible, attended the Children’s Court with the
ILC’s Children’s Court Assistance Scheme with the aim of
supporting young Aboriginal people attending the Court.
As part of the process, focus groups were organised with
members of the Aboriginal community, including potential
clients, community workers and leaders, to assess the
effectiveness of the program in relation to their stated needs.
This evaluation showed that the program had been well
received and beneficial to the Aboriginal Community. Based on
the evidence from the focus groups the Aboriginal community
wants the position to be full-time and continue to work at
the strategic level however they also want the worker to be
available to directly assist Aboriginal clients as required and the
ILC to increase the number of Aboriginal clients accessing the
In the final part of the year funding became available to begin
work on a brochure outlining the steps to enable Aboriginal
people to obtain Certification of Aboriginality documents. The
proposed document is awaiting final approval from the local
Aboriginal community.
Jody continued as a member of the West Street Centre
Management Committee. West Street had previously identified
several recommendations from the Breaking The Silence
Report, a state government investigation of child sexual assault
in Aboriginal communities, relevant to the Illawarra. As part
of the Management Committee Jody has been involved in
furthering these recommendations.
In January it was decided to evaluate the ALAP program
using Centre funds. This project assessed the project from its
inception. This included an overview of the programs activities,
achievements, challenges, statistics relating to client numbers
and services used.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
ILC at a glance
The Illawarra Legal Centre collects statistics across all its projects as part of its accountability process
when reporting to our funding bodies. The data is also an important aspect of the Centre’s planning and
strategic direction. During the year the Centre has reviewed its data entry processes. This has resulted in
new data input forms for recording advice and casework data and reviewing how other data is collected
and entered. The new, more thorough process in the area of non-casework data (eg CLE) and face to
face advice may explain the increases reported below. The new South Coast and FRC projects would also
have impacted on our statistics.
Phone advice
Community Legal Education (CLE)
Phone advice can range from one-off initial advice to complex
and lengthy interviews requiring follow up. This service is
provided by specialist caseworkers and/or solicitors.
CLE activities are discussed in the CLE section of the report
and within each project report. The Centre conducted 203 CLE
projects during the year and includes both presentations and
media activities
Phone advice accounts for the majority of interactions with
clients for both legal and specialist advice. During 2009/2010
there were 3534 phone advice interviews, an increase of 5.4%.
Face to Face Advice
There is a high demand for CLE from the local community.
Groups and organisations can access information about CLE
and download a CLE request form from the Centre’s website at
The Centre provided 861 face to face interviews for legal and
specialist advice. These interviews may be conducted in Centre
offices or in outreach locations, including Wollongong City
Library, Kedesh Rehabilitation Service, the Illawarra Women’s
Health Centre and the Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal
at Wollongong, Kiama, Nowra, Bega, Batemans Bay and
Moss Vale. The advice may be provided by Centre staff or by
volunteer solicitors working on a pro bono basis.
Law and Policy Reform
Staff continue to be active in undertaking policy work
advocating for change in a variety of spheres which are
detailed in each project report. Casework trends remain a
significant indicator of work needed in policy and law reform
Open Cases
In 2009/10 the Centre concentrated on a range of issues
A file is opened for a client whenever a matter is to be
represented by a worker in the court or tribunal, or where more
lengthy and continuous work is conducted on the case. During
this year there were 505 open cases, comprising 279 open at
the start of the year and 226 new files. 296 files were closed
during the same period representing a total increase of 9.1%
for the same period last year.
Contact with clients
The number of clients who contacted the Centre for advice
and/or casework over the twelve month period was 2794. New
clients account for 1929, repeat clients 614 and existing clients
The total number of clients has increased by 3.2% as
compared to the previous year. This includes a rise of 2.3% of
new clients for the same period last year.
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
• Work and Development Orders,
• Continued work on the impact of fines on all people in
relation to changes to the relevant State legislation,
• Changes to the Residential Tenancy Act 2010
• Amendments to the Mental Health Act 2007
• Homelessness
• Access to Justice report
In addition the Centre contributed to a number of group
submissions including spent convictions for young offenders,
welfare rights and housing.
Financial Report
Centre Funding
The Illawarra Legal Centre’s core operation sources of funding
are the State and Commonwealth Governments through the
Community Legal Service Funding Program. These grants are
administered by Legal Aid NSW.
Quarterly, six monthly and yearly financial reports are provided
by the Illawarra Legal Centre under the various funding body’s
agreement guidelines.
Due to the various specialist services offered by the Centre,
funding comes from numerous sources. They are as follows:
Child Support Project: Commonwealth Attorney General’s
Financial Counselling/Advocacy Service is operated by
contributions from:
• Fair Trading NSW – Financial Counselling Program
• Department of Families, Housing, Community Services
and Indigenous Affairs – Commonwealth Financial
Counselling Program
The Financial Statements for the year ended 30 June 2010
were audited in accordance with Australian Auditing Standards
Akele Kinnas & Co
Chartered Accountants
104 Railway Street
Consolidated Income and Expenditure Statement and
Statement of Financial Position for 2009/2010 appear on the
following pages. The full audit is available on request.
Welfare Rights Service: Commonwealth Attorney General’s
Tenancy Advice and Advocacy Program: Fair Trading NSW
Children’s Court Assistance Scheme: Public Purpose Fund
Aboriginal Legal Access Project: Community Legal Centres
NSW Funding
Provision of Locums
Locums were provided to cover staff on annual and long
service leave. This provides a continuity of service for the
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Interest Received
Miscellaneous Income
Workshop Fees
Centre Contribution
Grants Received
Unexpended Grants Carried Forward
Membership Fees
Victims Compensation
Admin Relief Costs
Computer Stationery and Supplies
Auditor’s Remuneration
Bank Charges
Centre Contribution
Conference Expenses
Consultants Fees
Depreciation – Furniture and Fittings
Depreciation – Leasehold Improvements
General Expenses
Grant Levy
Depreciation – Library
Depreciation – Plant and Equipment
Employee Assistance Program
Hire of Equipment
Legal Disbursements
Library Updates
Licences, Registrations and Permits
Holiday Pay
Locum Provision
Long Service Leave
Loss on Disposal of Fixed Assets
Management Fees
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
FOR THE YEAR ENDED 30 JUNE 2010 (Continued)
Maternity Leave
Minor Equipment Purchased
Postage, Printing and Stationery
Professional Fees
Provision for Sick Leave
Repairs and Maintenance
Rates and Taxes
Redundancy Provision
Relocation Costs
Staff Amenities
Staff Training
Superannuation Contributions
Technical Support
$ 11,812
$ 35,296
Travelling Expenses
Workshop Expenses
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Cash and cash equivalents
Property, plant and equipment
Creditors and borrowings
$ 444,213
$ 432,401
$ 444,213
$ 432,401
Grants Received in Advance
Other – Grants unexpended
Retained Earnings
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Balance at 1 July 2009
Profit attributable to members
Balance at 30 June, 2010
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010
Illawarra Legal Centre Inc Annual Report 2009 - 2010